Microhistory  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Microhistory is the intensive historical investigation of a well defined smaller unit of research (most often a single event, the community of a village, a family or a person). In its ambition, however, microhistory can be distinguished from a simple case study insofar microhistory aspires to "search for answers to large questions in small places", to use the definition given by Charles Joyner.

The original idea of writing microhistory came from Italy in the 1970s where Giovanni Levi wrote L'eredita immateriale (1985) and cultural historian Carlo Ginzburg wrote The Cheese and the Worms (1976).

However, E. P. Thompson's Whigs and Hunters: The Origins of the Black Act (1975) and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou, village occitan (1975), pioneering British and French microhistories, each preceded Ginzburg's book.

Microhistory had a significant impact on French and German historians in the 1980s and 1990, when it produced classics in several languages (e.g. Natalie Zemon Davis: The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983). It can be seen as part of cultural history together with the histoire des mentalités of the French Annales School, the German Alltagsgeschichte, or historical anthropology. It is especially close to the latter, with the important difference that it, especially its original Italian version, puts a great stress on the agency of historical actors and is therefore unwilling to see culture as a determining force.

List of microhistorians

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Microhistory" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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